On this day in history, Martin Luther King, Jr., along with dozens of others, was arrested during a sit-in at “The Magnolia Room” in Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta, Georgia. At Rich’s, African Americans could purchase items from the store but they were not allowed to try on clothing or sit at a table in the Magnolia Room. Because Rich’s was an Atlanta institution, Atlanta’s African-American students made the Magnolia Room the center of their struggle for integration. This sit-in took place eight months after the famous sit-in at the F.W. Woolworth Co. lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Since that time, several southern cities had integrated its lunch counters, and students in Atlanta wanted to do the same for their city.
On this day, 52 protestors, including King, were arrested for violating legislation which allowed individuals to be charged with a misdemeanor if they refused to leave private property when asked. Charges against sixteen of the group were dismissed, and another 35 were released on bond. But King was kept in jail because of a previous 12-month probationary sentence on a charge of driving without a valid Georgia license (based on an “anti-trespass” law enacted to curb lunch counter sit-ins). He was now transferred to Reidsville State Prison, where he was then sentenced to four months in a Georgia public works camp.
King’s attorneys filed an appeal, and intervention by then presidential candidate John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy convinced a judge to grand bond. King was released on October 27, two days after he was sentenced and one day after he arrived at the Georgia State Prison.